Remember we talked about your company’s reputation and going to parties? In a way this post is a follow-up to that idea and a closer look at one of the most important tools you have: your website. So, you’re at a party. You’d like to sample some food. You come up to the serving table. What do you see? A stained spread, dishes crammed helter-skelter, some with the sauce running off the edge, some with questionable concoctions you can’t identify? Or do you see a freshly ironed white tablecloth tastefully presenting you with a few delicacies that make your mouth water? Apply the rule of "less is more." Don’t outsource your website to an agency (not like you have money to do it, anyway). Your website is one of your most important tools, not just for reputation building, but for brand awareness, marketing and sales. Own the content. Own the message. Own the design. Hire people who can help you code it, create photography and art, but own the site yourself.
YOUR WEBSITE IS EVERYTHING.
1. Every page is a separate dish.
Treat every page as an individual project. Who is your audience? What do they want to know? How do you best convey your message? Each page has to have a headline, has to benefit your audience, make your branding message credible, and have an offer to engage the customer, not just a social media button or an email link, but an invitation to do something together. In other words, make your visitors not just look, but taste what you have so carefully laid out on your serving table, and make them want to come back for more. Start a conversation, an event like a webinar, give them a gift like a white paper or a book, so that later you can follow up.
2. Excel at serving speed.
The technology for your most visited website pages should be pure CSS/HTML. Keep the pages simple, like the white tablecloth that serves fantastic food as content. Make sure your coder builds it in a responsive way, so that it scales with different screen sizes. For pages that will be updated regularly with fresh content use Wordpress or another CMS, but keep your homepage super simple so it loads very fast (the Google algorithm loves speed!). Everything on your website should be reachable in 2 clicks, 3 clicks for the stuff you care less about, in which case ask yourself: does it need to be on your website? Measure page load times. Apart from user experience and bounce rates, Google rewards fast pages with higher rankings.
3. Don’t mix too many flavors.
Be careful with too many links on a page. Google’s page rank algorithm “splits up” your page “credits” over the links you use, so too many links will dilute your SEO juice, and SEO is king. Your website is your 24/7 customer service and inbound sales department. It works while you sleep. Since you have a great products or services to offer that many people need, you need to help them find you. That’s what SEO is. It’s the sandwich board on the sidewalk, the listing in the yellow pages and the sign on your building. Make the most of the SEO real estate you have. Your visitors have to see proof that the benefits of your offering are real. Let customers or third parties talk about it or confirm their experiences with quotes. Don’t forget to include a CTA (call to action) to give people an option to click “next” and optimize every page with its own keywords.
4. Present your food as art.
Invest in real, authentic website design. There are plenty of artists out there that need to make a living. They would love to help you with original work. Do you want fake prints on the walls of your house? No. Same goes for your website. Presentation is everything. Use real photos taken by real people and stay away from stock photography. Real people’s art is much more engaging. Take pictures yourself or hire a photographer, if you can, especially if that photographer and the subjects use your product and can relate to it. The same is true for videos. Animation is also fun and entertaining, but if you want your prospects to trust you, nothing is better than an exited customer or partner endorsing you in an authentic video.
5. Cater to your customer’s needs. And Always-Be-Testing (ABT, not ABC :-)
Your website is never static. People come and go. Different people want to be served different things at different times. Every page, every element on your website should always have two versions. Experiment with things that can be done better and don’t forget to measure what version of 2 alternatives works best.
Your to-do list:
- Hire artists, writers and coders to help you develop the content for your website. Here are a few links to get started: http://www.designclue.co , http://wooshii.com , http://www.cartoonistgroup.com/ , http://www.childrensillustrators.com/, https://vimeo.com/ , http://www.3to30.com , http://www.jantoo.com . Find beautiful pictures on wire services such as AP Images, Reuters Pictures, or Getty Images.
- Code the core of your website in CSS/HTML with every page having a clean simple design, its own headline and a relevant offering for the visitors.
- Optimize every page for search engines.
- Create alternate versions for each page and continuously test them to improve customer experience.